Archive | June, 2010

Champions League is under way

30 Jun

Believe it or not, only 6 weeks removed from Inter Milan’s Champions League win, without even reaching the month of July, and the next saga of Champions League football is already in motion!!

In the very, very, very first game of the world’s greatest competition, mighty FC Santa Coloma was scheduled to play Birkirkara FC yesterday in Andorra. FC Santa Coloma qualified by topping Andorra’s 8 team Campionat de Lliga. Interestingly enough, it’s a part time league and the players are part time. Blacksmith, lawyer, shoe shiner by day – Champions League footballer by night. Not a bad gig I must say.

Birkirkara FC hails from the bigger and better Maltese Premier League that sports 10 teams. Led by U-19 captain Rowen Muscat, they face an uphill battle without their injured veteran defender Nisevic and Buhagiar up top (I promise I didn’t make those names up).

Now seeing as how Andorra almost claimed my life 4 years ago, I’m leaning towards throwing my support behind the Maltese. Especially because they have their own Ultras group and were established 36 years before Santa Coloma. They’ve got some history! It’s also Birkirkara’s 3rd appearance in this prestigious tournament compared to Santa Coloma’s second, so I gotta go to experience.

I know you’re getting very antsy and you want a match report. So here’s what happened….it rained. And rained really, really hard. So much so that the pitch at Santa Coloma’s Estadi Comunal d’Andorra la Vella become waterlogged and unplayable. The match was abandoned by UEFA after they ruled the pitch was unfit for play. UEFA Disciplinary Commission is looking into the matter and could hand the victory to MY TEAM, Birkirkara FC.

Sorry for the anti-climatic result. Hopefully it will be resolved and a game will be played. If not, mighty Slovak giants MŠK Žilina lie in wait for the winner. What a cracking game that’ll be!

Iran knows best

30 Jun

(reuters)

Leave it to the Iranians for the best sound bites. This author has argued repeatedly that the English simply weren’t good enough to make a real impact on this tournament. The United States couldn’t put together a full 90 minutes of game-play and, ultimately, it was Bradley’s fault. As for the French? Fighting and childish behavior wrote off their chances before the World Cup even started. Obvious right?

Not quite. I, and everyone else, on this planet had it all wrong. Turns out Iran’s Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki is a lot smarter than we give him credit for. “Whatever we witness today in the international political arena has been identically manifested in the 19th tournament of the World Cup,” he was quoted as saying.

He went on to proclaim, “Those countries which played a key role in imposing new sanctions against Iran – like England, America and France – were all eliminated in the preliminary phases,” he said.

Well not quite since England and the United States made it out of the group stages. But I kinda see where he’s coming from. After all, it’s incredibly bad karma to represent a country that imposes sanctions on dictators seeking nuclear proliferation.

Think this is all some joke? Brazil is one of the few countries that voted against the sanctions and look how they’re doing.

So lesson learned. The leaders of the great Western powers must make a decision: World War III or World Cup Champions?  I know I don’t want their jobs…

네 나는 이해한다

30 Jun

Now, none of you have any clue what the title of this post says. Korean isn’t usually tought in our schools. Apparently though, Emmanuel Eboué found time to take some classes as can be seen below. No wonder Ivory Coast figured out how to dominate North Korea!!

(by the way, the title translates to “Yes I understand”)

Strikers and their quirky habits

30 Jun

I’ve probably said this a million times in my lifetime and the fact remains, I’m a TERRIBLE doodler. Sitting through boring classes in college was compounded by the fact that I could only make 3-D squares and triangle, and of course the occasional box house.

If only I was friends with Denmark’s Nicklas Bendtner. Hopefully I’ll learn a little something if I watch this video enough.

FIFA’s Hypocrisy

29 Jun

I guess it was a only a matter of time before you heard this rant of mine. I was only waiting for a good opportunity to bring it up and in light of recent developments in France, this is a perfect time.

It revolves around football’s relationship with governments – or rather their attempt to distance themselves from it. As I’m sure you all followed the disgraceful exit of France from the tournament, you no doubt heard that President Sarkozy asked for a review of French football and was even planning to meet with Thierry Henry to discuss the Nicolas Anelka fiasco. Not surprisingly, big bad FIFA intervened the other day and has warned the French government of interfering with football affairs with the risk of being thrown out of future tournaments.

FIFA’s stance is quite simple – government and football are separate, independent entities. Article 13.1.(g) of FIFA’s laws explains that national federations are obliged “to manage their affairs independently and ensure that their own affairs are not influenced by any third parties.” The laws go on to dictate that third parties, “include politicians, governments, states, media, etc.” As the governing body for world football, these laws pertain to the continental confederations as well.

Since football and politics go hand in hand in every single country on this planet (except the United States of course), these types of laws are necessary to prevent interference from the highest levels. They were enforced in 2008 against Iraq. Greece, too, suffered in 2006.  Even Iran faced a suspension. While I applaud FIFA for having these statutes in place, it’s not enough. At the end of the day, FIFA (and the WTA for a time) backs off the BIGGEST issues around. Oh the hypocrisy…

Euro 2012 Qualifying Draw: Held on February 7th in Warsaw, UEFA (Europe’s governing football body)selected the 9 6-team qualifying groups to compete for entry into the 2012 tournament to be held in Poland and Ukraine. Prior to the draw however, UEFA took it upon themselves to publicly fix the draw. Due to political issues, Armenia and Azerbaijan could not be drawn against each other nor could Georgia and Russia. Sooo wait a minute. Let’s say Armenia and Azerbaijan were drawn in the same group. And then the Armenian government said it wouldn’t play in Azerbaijan – well then from what we know wouldn’t that result in a suspension???? Of course not. UEFA are cowards.

Which brings me to the issue at hand – Israel. As you can no doubt see here, Israel is geographically part of the Middle East and greater Asia. For years Israel competed in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) – qualifying for the 1970 World Cup and winning the Asian Cup in 1964. They came in 3rd place at the next Asian Cup which was held in Iran. Then, of course, war broke out in 1973. Emerging victorious yet again, Israel would eventually send a team to compete in the 1974 Asian games in Tehran. However, this is where things started to unwind. Kuwait – and every other Arab state in the tournament – refused to take the field against the Israelis. Rather than dock Kuwait points or suspend them from the tournament, Israel was booted by the AFC not simply from the Asian Cup but from the entire confederation.

As a result Israel was forced to, and please excuse the obvious metaphor, wander the footballing wilderness. For a time in the 1980s they competed in Oceania with the likes of Fiji and New Zealand. They were also given a chance to qualify for tournaments via Europe. Then in 1994, UEFA granted Israel full membership into Europe.

Fairytale ending? Not quite. It’s time for a change. It’s time for Israel to return to where it belongs in Asia. We are only talking a couple games a year – if that. If Kuwait or UAE or Bahrain or Iran won’t agree to play Israel in a qualifying game for any tournament, then THROW THEIR ASSES OUT OF THE COMPETITION!! I mentioned above that Iran was suspended at one point – that’s because Mahmoud Ahmadinejad put his own man in charge of the national football federation. Well if that same Holocaust-denying idiot would be the man to put his fist down to say Iran won’t play Israel, then issue another suspension! Dock points! Forfeit games!

If a country can’t guarantee the safety of the Israeli national team, then FIFA must step in. Why, after clamping down for years against government interference, does FIFA do nothing about this?

Just think about the repercussions of throwing Iran (4 WC appearances including ’98 and 06′) or Saudi Arabia (4 WC appearances – ’94, ’98, ’02, ’06) or Qatar (bidding to host a World Cup) out of competitions because of refusal to play Israel.  You really think the public wouldn’t mind? I promise you they would take to the streets.

In the meantime though, we’re left with a fool’s hope. Until Sepp Blatter, President of FIFA, grows a sac and makes some serious decisions (not least of which is allowing video replay), Israel will be left to fight it out with the big boys of Europe and miss endless opporunities of success in Asia. Why can’t Blatter step in and make a decree? He’s Swiss. Go figure…

Nothing like your own shout-out at the World Cup

29 Jun
Check out the guy in the back left.

Dugout Antics

29 Jun

Pick me a winner:
http://www.youtube.com/v/zA803thhgA0&hl=en_US&fs=1&

The Fabio Capello:
http://www.youtube.com/v/qRPla0mealI&hl=en_US&fs=1&

It Was Never Meant to Be

28 Jun

(Soccernet/Jim Brown/US Presswire)

Call me cynical for having always having my doubts. It’s been a roller coaster supporting the United States men’s national team leading up to and including the World Cup. The highs (and lows) of the Confederations Cup last summer, the comebacks against England and Slovenia after conceding early, the heart stopping finish against Algeria, and of course the finale versus Ghana. We are lucky to have a talented squad, oozing with mental toughness, class acts, hard workers, and potential. But all that amounts to nothing, however, if you can’t convert that into a complete winning mentality with goals and victories. The key word here is a complete winning mentality. Quite frankly, this team didn’t have it, nor the proper leadership to cultivate it.

It started at the Confederations Cup in South Africa last summer. After getting pummeled by a combined score of 6-1 to Brazil and Italy in the opening matches of the group stage, that never say die spirit ignited and we beat Egypt 3-0 to move through (surpassing Italy with the 2nd tie breaker of goals scored). And then the shock defeat of Spain – the best, and up to that point, unstoppable team on the planet. Yet it seems every high point this team reaches is almost instantaneously followed up by a let down…in this case shipping a 2 goal halftime lead against Brazil to ultimately lose 3-2 in the final.

Back to reality – CONCACAF World Cup qualifying which has been somewhat of a pushover for this team. Sure we drew 2 and lost 2 on the way, but it never seemed to be a real issue to overtake the likes of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Trinidad & Tobago. As a result, American fans were filled with that all too familiar feeling of potential. And let’s be fair here with how we as a nation approached this tournament and the past few World Cups – the level of potential has always been higher than expectations. Our dream run in 2002 was epic and raised the sport’s profile, but nobody really expected this team to challenge for a quarterfinals or semi-finals birth. We were expected to get out of the group and nothing more than that. We knew we had the pieces – just not a finished product. (To give you an idea of the complete opposite, see England — ludicrous expectations surpassing potential).

So why no finished product? Why did we show how good we really were 1 half at a time this tournament only to fuck up and piss away any chance at success the rest of the time. Why can we play like we did against Spain one day, and lost to Trinidad and Tobago in qualifying on another? We held a lead for a total of 3 minutes in this tournament (injury time at the end of the match against Algeria). We allowed a goal to be scored in the opening 13 minutes in 3 of the 4 games we played. That’s just unacceptable.

It might be cowardly to point fingers and place all the blame on one man – and I stopped myself from doing it after the Algeria match – but I really have no other option than to pick out Bob Bradley. To be fair certain things were out of his control. Our back line has always been suspect and it proved our undoing in the end. As for an out-and-out striker, well we just don’t have one. Jozy Altidore may only be 20 years old but he by no means is the answer up front. Not a single goal from any of our forwards in this tournament is a big problem – and it seems like there aren’t many strikers coming through the ranks.

But that’s all the slack I’m gonna cut him. I praised him endlessly for being able to see problems on the field and adjust with tactical substitutions. But you can’t always rely on doing that in the middle of a game when you’re already losing!! Starting Ricardo Clark instead of Edu, and then getting lucky with that yellow card as an excuse to sub him out after 31 minutes. That’s inexcusable. We were handcuffed with only 2 substitutions after that. And then who to pair up with JozyBuddle or Findley or Gomez or Feilhaber or why not Dempsey. You could even argue that maybe the real issue was Jozy himself – to what do we owe this 20 year old forward in the making who has warmed benches since 2008 and scored once in 34 appearances. 34 appearances in 2 years! Maybe the problem wasn’t who to pair up with him but who to replace him. Bradley let us down in this tournament because after 4 years at the helm, he still doesn’t know his best 11.

Finally there’s the issue (and this is the MOST important of all) of motivation. Those early goals we gave up say something about Bradley’s ability to frame a proper mindset in the locker room. Team talks, motivational speeches, hip hip hoorays – call em’ what you’d like. Bradley didn’t have any. Whatever he used didn’t work. If ESPN could do a better job garnering excitement for the England match than the American coach himself could do for his own squad, then something is truly wrong.

I think we learned that Bradley was the right hire in 2006 – he has made enormous strides with US soccer to bring us to where we are today. But we also learned that he isn’t the right man to take us to that next level of success. At no point EVER did I think he could motivate these players to progress in a World Cup. We’ve been plagued with inconsistent performances. With an aging squad which requires a number of changes before Brazil 2014, it’s time for someone else to take the reigns and begin the process of making this team a serious contender.

Keep your heads up. I don’t have a cure for how upset and unfulfilled you must be feeling after this elimination – there’s no worse a feeling. But be sure that this team, as we did so many times throughout this tournament, will fight back. We’ll recover from this loss and take away many positives. Let’s just hope there’s someone out there to put all these pieces together into that finished product we’ve been yearning for all these years.

Time for a Makeover

28 Jun

Good riddance! I really couldn’t be any more pleased to see the English and Italians stumble out of this tournament in shambles for a number of reasons. Not least of which is entitlement. The Italians entered this tournament as defending champions – so it would only be natural for them to assume a deep run into the tournament is nothing more than expected.  Especially after seeing their draw with Paraguay, Slovakia, and New Zealand.

As for England, well they entered this tournament having not even qualified for the European Championships in 2008. Yet, they still came in thinking a trip to the semi-finals at least was do-able. I mean look at some of the crap they were running before the World Cup started. They are the most arrogant nation when it comes to the sport they invented…even though many are too blind or ignorant to realize they’re not even any good.

Well, pathetic display after pathetic display from both teams has rightfully sent them home with no hope of success in the foreseeable future unless serious changes are made.

Let’s start with the Azzurri. Marcello Lippi decided to live in the past thinking his aging squad that won the whole thing in 2006 could repeat 4 years later. 4 years older. I think it’s pretty safe to say that as a neutral it probably wasn’t hard to see how slow that team was.  Ok so he “spiced” it up with the likes of Simone Pepe, Vincenzo Iaquinta, and Alberto Gilardino. Pepe performed ok but overall these players are mediocre at best. Did he really think he’d beat the world with dinosaurs like Cannavaro and Zambrotta at the back. So what if he picked some youth – he picked the wrong youngins! Giovinco and Giuseppe Rossi would have brought the creativity and flair this team was lacking. Antonio Cassano who scored 20+ goals this past season was left home to ponder what he could have done better.

Not only that but he decided to bring 6 Juventus players!! Juventus – Italy’s Liverpool this season finishing in 7th place. Age and experience can only get you so far and it seems to have caught up with the Italians. Everyone knows they are staunch defenders and they did a decent job of it. But you need pace to go forward and they just didn’t have it. The world knows not to expect any surprises from this team and that’s no way to try and win a tournament. Italy paid the price of trying to replicate 2006 without any necessary signs of progress from within the pool of Italian players, and it ultimately provided them a quick return trip from South Africa.

Now my favorite – England. I take no greater pleasure in bashing English players, the English style of football, and any potential those average players think they have. You can make any excuse you want but the fact is, this team and these players are simply not good enough to compete with the biggest clubs in the world (and we’re gonna throw the USA into that pool as well because they proved it against us). They are self-centered, arrogant, not very creative, and ever so boring to watch. Not a single player on the English squad could be considered “world class” – save Rooney and Ashley Cole.

I see Capello ranting and raving on the sideline and I feel his frustration. He’s revolted by the sight of long ball after long ball after long ball. He wants his back four to pass their way out of trouble and link up with the midfield. But they can’t.  He wants Gerrad and Lampard to play together – and they can’t. He wants Glenn Johnson to remember to play defense every time he goes forward – and he doesn’t. He wants at least a HALF decent goalie – and he can’t get one.

I won’t pick apart every player one by one because it would be cumbersome. The bottom line is, these guys come from the greatest league on the planet and everyone expects them to be great. And yet the very essence of their domestic success is the fact that almost 2/3 of the people surrounding them aren’t English. The individual talent of the Africans, South Americans, and Europeans make these guys look great.  But on their own? It’s a bunch of rags.

Compounding this problem is the un-checked spending of hundreds of millions of dollars by the clubs. With all the oil barons and sheiks flocking to England with their riches, a “win now” mentality has risen. Spend big and reap the rewards immediately. As such, nobody has the patience any more to wean the prospects. Why waste time with an 18 year old when you’ve got a veteran 25 year old in his stead?  And it’s not like there isn’t talent there. Just ask the under-17 squad that won the European Championships in May. The future for England is right under it’s nose.

So what now? Well for Italy they’ve learned their lesson.  A gamble to see if these aging superstars could still do it failed miserably…but at least there are younger players at their disposal and the next national team coach will be wise to use them. I wouldn’t be too worried as an Italian fan because these guys, unlike the English, are very talented and disciplined, and simply need a little bit more experience. The old guard has officially washed up.

For England it’s not going to be that easy at all, and I wouldn’t be surprised if in 2 years time they don’t qualify for the European Championships again. Lampard, Gerrard, Rio Ferdinand, John Terry will – or at least should – hang up their international boots. There goes your spine for the past decade. Replacements are scarce and those that do exist have zero experience whatsoever. Just look at center midfield for example – your new options would be Michael Carrick and Jack Wilshere… 

With no end in sight for the obnoxious spending at the club levels – where foreign owners could care less about the kids in the academies – England could be in store for a long and ugly road the next couple of years. I just don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel anytime soon.

A nipple bit of excitement

27 Jun

The last time we saw this Paraguayan vixen, she was utterly dissapointed with the way things were going.

Lucky for us, all that has changed.

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